Osaka, Serena set up blockbuster Toronto quarterfinal

Published by AP

Serena Williams (L) and Naomi Osaka will clash for the third time when they meet in the Rogers Cup quarterfinals in Toronto. Osaka leads the head-to-head series 2-0 (Getty Images)
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams will clash for the first time since last year’s US Open final, and join Karolina Pliskova and Simona Halep in the WTA Toronto quarterfinals.

Naomi Osaka has set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal clash with Serena Williams after defeating Iga Swiatek in the third round of the Canadian Open.

The 21-year-old Japanese star beat Swiatek 7-6(4) 6-4 in one hour and 55 minutes after Williams beat Ekaterina Alexandrova in the preceding match on Toronto’s Stadium court.

Dual Grand Slam champion Osaka, who will likely regain the WTA’s world No.1 ranking from Ashleigh Barty when the list is revised on Monday, joked after the match it was a strange feeling competing against someone younger than her.

“She was such an incredible player – I wasn’t expecting her to be this aggressive,” Osaka praised her 18-year-old Polish opponent.

“I just told her [while shaking hands] she played really amazing and I feel like, if she’s similar to me, she would be down on herself. But she played really well … I’m sure I’m going to play her multiple times in the future.”

Osaka will face Williams, who she beat in the 2018 US Open final, on centre court in Toronto on Friday night.

“She’s like my tennis mum,” Osaka said. “She’s someone I grew up watching and admire so much.

“I’m pretty sure a lot of people will be watching that match and hopefully I can play well against her.”

Williams, a three-time Canadian Open champion, trailed Russia’s Alexandrova 0-3 in the first set and 1-3 in the second before storming back to reach the last eight.

“I’ve been actually looking forward to playing her for a while,” Williams said of Osaka.

“She’s had a great year early in the season and she’s still doing pretty good, actually. So it’ll be really good to play her again.”

Earlier on Thursday, Czech Karolina Pliskova also advanced to the quarterfinals by seeing off Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit 6-3 7-5 in 79 minutes, after needing three sets to defeat American Alison Riske on Wednesday.

“For sure better than it was maybe yesterday,” Pliskova said. “So I guess it’s going to get better every day with what I play. And I always was, I am, improving with matches.”

In position to reclaim top spot in the world rankings this week along with Osaka, the third-seeded Pliskova set up a match against Bianca Andreescu after the Canadian beat fifth-seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-1 6-7(7) 6-4.

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Fourth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, in her first event since beating Williams for the Wimbledon title, beat Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 6-1.

She’ll next face Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who defeated Latvia’s Jalena Ostapenko 6-2 6-2.

Sofia Kenin’s good tournament continued following a 6-2 6-2 victory over Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska.

Kenin beat No.1 seed Barty in the previous round and in the quarters will face sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, a 6-2 6-4 winner over 11th seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

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